It started long ago

As a teen I had two girlfriends – not simultaneously, mind you … well, ok, briefly … just forget it. The point is, they both at some point gave me wooden carvings of Don Quixote. At the time, because of a kind of self-centered dimness in my teens I have at this late stage vaguely outgrown (don’t ask Francesca, please), I thought the figurines were cool, but only decades later did it occur to me that they both thought the character depicted in the carvings represented me. I mean, they weren’t wrong, but at the time I thought of myself as considerably more normal than I actually was, and am. Even while charging at windmills, it didn’t occur to me that that behavior was outré. Surely everyone, at one point or another, feels a longing for the grand futile gesture. Yeah, so. As to that, it was only about ten years ago that I recognized that my own obsessive labors in theoretical physics, however correct in their essentials (well, mathematically rigorous, for what it’s worth), were infinitely more futile than I ever thought them. So I quit. Fuck windmills. I didn’t want to end up like Don Quixote, or James Holden, dead, and not contentedly so (well, Holden, in dying, saved humanity and much else from extermination, so maybe he was content in the knowledge; but would I likely save humanity with such a grand sacrifice? Only if Francesca was saved in the process, I think. Otherwise, pfft.) I wanted to go to the Italian Riviera every year and look upon my past as some sort of grand fiction; it was to be a story leading to tragedy, but it did not actually end as such, for the author, deep into martini number 3, thought the story arc tedious and full of unwarranted drama, and finally had the protagonist opt for a quiet life in the country, blogging on occasion, but eschewing abstract thought, and the other stuff David Hume warned against, and, well, … ooh, that’s a pretty cloud.

(I should add that my Honda Element died, and its replacement now has a license plate frame that says Rocinante. Full circle.)


I am a fan of graphic novels and comics, and in early 2008 I encountered Amulet, a graphic book by Kazu Kibuishi. It was just my cup of tea – young people having magical adventures. And it was book 1 of a series, so I had more to which to look forward. Yay. And at first the release rate of subsequent books in the series was not too bad, but then …

I got through 7 books, but book 8 was published in 2018, 2 years after book 7, and book 9, said to be the final book, was to be published on splxlfooblesnarf. I had hopes in 2020, but they were dashed, as were my hopes in 2021, 2022, 2023. Finally, this very month, February 2024, I had book 9 in my hands, and took it home. In the 8 years since finishing book 7 I had forgotten 72.604% of the story. I had never even started book 8. So I took out book 1 and started anew.

During all those long years I got increasingly frustrated with the author. I was 59 when I read book 1, and 67 when I finished book 7. I was diagnosed with incurable cancer in the middle of my wait for book 9. There was a real chance that …

So, yeah, but as I write I am rereading book 4, and I have gained some understanding for why it took so long. It – I assume – is the artwork. Each frame is brilliantly detailed. It is unique, in my experience, and turning each page my brain frequently goes “wow”, and “cool”, and sometimes “awesome”. And the story, gripping.

The intended audience is YA, I believe, but in many ways I stopped maturing at age 10, so I’m at the low end of YA, I think.

The Multiverse of Airbender

Has there ever been a live action remake of a much beloved animation that wasn’t motivated by money? One Piece wasn’t bad, but I’m not sure the animated original was much beloved (beloved, sure, just not much). I never watched it, but I never watch animated series whose episodes number in the millions (exaggeration alert). I mean, sometime around episode 2401, don’t you get a feeling that the writers are stretching it – concocting one unlikely scenario after another?

So, anyway, they recently released a live action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The animated version had a beginning, middle, another middle, then an end. They tried to milk the franchise with a sequel, but it was unnecessary and unmemorable. Francesca and I love the original, and we rewatch it annually when we travel overseas.

The live action version, on the contrary, is teeth-grindingly different from the original, and we have viewed but 4 of the 8 episodes of season 1, and Francesca was already suggesting we drop it. The creators (and it needs to be emphasized that the animation creators quit the live action team when …) … yeah so, there are many much loved bits from the animation that fans were looking forward to seeing in this new format. The creators knew this, and they gathered them all together as disparate bits, put them in a box, put a lid on the box, shook it up thoroughly, then dumped out the contents, now in random order, and made their story from that. Of the contexts that tied these bits together and gave them meaning, they were not understood and thrown aside. Why bother when you’d taken such huge efforts to build the physical world in which the “story” takes place (and this can’t be faulted, much; it looks great).

Anyway, much has been made of Sokka’s lack of sexism, thereby denying his journey into … well, not being sexist (probably motivated by some desire not to offend “modern audiences”). But for me the most egregiously awful alterations are these: King Bumi was turned from a wise fun loving old codger (a member to The Order of the White Lotus, for gods’ sake) into a wizened, angry and bitter old man who lashes out at Aang (Francesca’s students were asked what they thought about the remake, and King Bumi’s descent into meanness was their #1 complaint).

But worse for me, Azula – the daughter of the evil Fire Lord – was in the animation hyper-talented, arrogant, effectively conniving, and supremely confident. In the remake she is made to have medium talent, and her arrogance is replaced by a bitter uncertainty. The Fire Lord – who in the animation praised her at every opportunity – disses her at every opportunity in the remake. Does this serve to reinforce some inane cultural message? It’s such an extraordinary change. Why? Why why why? Her arrogance is a driving force for much of the rest of the story. Fuck.

Anyway, Francesca and I may not watch episodes 5,6,7 and 8. And don’t even get me started about the owl – yet another character whose reason for being was going to be skipped, so the owl was stuck in anyway, in a way that … enough.


I bought this. If you were confused where I stood on cultural issues, don’t be. (Oh, that’s Ben Shapiro and Tom MacDonald.)